Lower and Upper Elementary
Lower Elementary – Ages 6 to 9 years
Upper Elementary – Ages 9 to 12 years
Children continue to benefit from mixed-age classrooms, and work individually and in small groups as they progress toward abstract concepts and logical reasoning. The Elementary curriculum features strong academics including the study of Math, Geometry, English/Language Arts (ELA), Biology and Cultural Studies, including physical sciences, geography, history, art, music, and PE.
Our Elementary Program is a warm community providing a stimulating environment with teachers and materials that invite exploration and research. It grows out of respect for the mind of a rapidly developing child. No longer content to simply gain physical independence, a child of this age now strives for intellectual independence. This is a time of insatiable curiosity and excitement for learning. Our program provides opportunities to capture this energy. Ready to grow, stretch their wings, and understand the world around them, Elementary learning often extends beyond the room to include time outdoors, on our property or in the community.
Collaborative Learning. Individualized Work Plans.
An authentic Montessori program such as ours recognizes and supports the particular social needs of children at this stage of development, which differ from a young child in the Primary program. Through collaborative problem solving and daily group work, children develop the qualities necessary for leadership and a positive social experience, such as empathy, respect for differences, responsibility, self-confidence, and working to the best of their ability for internal satisfaction, rather than an external reward or “prize.”
Each day provides a three-hour work cycle, where children have the opportunity to move freely in the classroom and learn to make appropriate choices within a supported structure. Guides closely observe each student and build individual work plans to meet their current needs, as opposed to teaching a particular lesson to, say, every third grader because it is March and standardized tests are approaching. Each classroom is filled with beautiful, concrete materials that will lead the child to an abstract understanding of fundamental concepts in each area of the curriculum in a natural progression, versus a stressful struggle. This ensures that children understand what they are studying—truly learning—rather than just memorizing information for a test.
We Focus on These Important Areas in Each Classroom
The nexus of a Montessori elementary education is the Cosmic Curriculum, or Cultural Studies, represented as the Five Great Lessons, from which all studies radiate. Each year of the Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary three-year cycle, the Lessons are presented on the Creation of the Universe and our own planet, the Coming of Life on earth, the Coming of Humans, the Origins of Writing, and the Origins of Numbers. From these five key lessons, presented as experiences, come lessons on subjects such as chemistry, the formation of atoms and molecules, plate tectonics, phases of the moon, classification of organisms, fundamental needs of humans, early civilizations, simple machines, engineering, different alphabets, Pythagorean Theory, and so much more. Each subject is integrated into a cohesive curriculum, with language and math opportunities woven throughout subjects that might on the surface seem separate. Dynamic, highly impressionistic presentations spark the elementary child’s imagination and stimulate further research. Students are empowered to ask and attempt to answer the big questions of life: “How did the world form?”, “Where did we come from?”. The Cosmic Curriculum prepares the child for future abstract thinking in all areas.
Geometry frequently isn’t presented until middle school or high school, yet we view this is a missed learning opportunity. Children in the second plane of development, from 6 to 12 years of age, are in a sensitive period for understanding concepts of history and time, as well as human culture and the use of tools and machines. The first key lesson of Geometry, titled “Sacred Geometry” is geared toward these interests, and they are eager to learn about early Egyptian culture, and how annual flooding might have led to the discovery of geometry and its uses. Knowing that the triangle is the constructor of all shapes leads to deep insight, and great is the discovery when a child uses materials to see for themselves the why behind equivalency proofs, or why a2 + b2 = c2. Yes, we have a physical material for understanding the Pythagorean Theory! Upper Elementary is an ideal time to gain a foundation in these concepts, and will aid in future geometry studies at higher levels.
The math area continues from Lower to Upper Elementary by learning math concepts such as place value, quantity/symbol association, concrete addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The Montessori materials give a sensorial quality to the lessons, and children learn through trial and error, and self-discovery. The materials quickly move your child to an abstract understanding of math concepts, including problem solving with one or more steps, fractions, graphing, measurement, dynamic operations, algebraic equations and higher math thinking. They also learn about other base systems, such as Mayan or Egyptian systems, integrating cultural studies into math lessons, and encouraging deeper research and understanding.
Data collecting and organization begins at the Lower Elementary level with surveys and learning to find the mean. Students learn how to represent data using a variety of graphs. At the Upper Elementary level, students learn other central tendency measures, such as mode and median, and how to interpret and read various types of graphs. Students learn measurement in both US customary and metric systems, and how to convert within and between systems.
Once the number line is mastered students are introduced to the concept of the coordinate plane, and ordered pairs, slope and intercept are presented.
Practical Life, which was a separate area in the Primary program, is now integrated within the daily routine of the classroom. Your child will help keep our community well maintained by rotating tasks, such as organizing and straightening materials, watering plants, sweeping and vacuuming, taking care of animals, dusting and maintaining their own areas. Sanitizing is handled by adults.
Just as math and language opportunities are woven into each subject area, the Elementary biology curriculum is also deeply integrated within the Cosmic Curriculum, which is also known as Cultural Studies. Biology is broken down further into Botany, Zoology and Human Body. Students delve into study of the kingdoms of life, learning classification of plants and animals, their form and function, and the interdependencies of both. Systems of the human body are introduced and studied further. Students are provided with ample opportunities to research and create projects, learning hands-on in the field or with natural objects in the classroom. They are encouraged to hone their observational skills and develop scientific reasoning, both of which contribute to a broad educational foundation that will last a lifetime.
“English and language arts” includes a comprehensive spelling curriculum, word study (including homonyms, idioms, metaphors, parts of speech, etc), grammar, creative and technical writing and research skills. Reading of every genre is highly encouraged, and your child will be introduced to poetry, folk tales, non-fiction and classic literature. Your child will also have many opportunities to read aloud and practice presentation skills, both of their own creation and dramatizing the work of another author.